Augustine “Og” Mandino said, “Consider a painting by Rembrandt or a bronze by Degas or a violin by Stradivarius or a play by Shakespeare. They have great value for two reasons: their creators were masters and they are few in number.” And guess what, faithful readers? Bunny had the distinct honor of accompanying Anonymous to a modern day master’s creation.
Anonymous and I lunched at Bottega Cafe in honor of St. Valentine, who in my mind is the man. I am all about loving, unlike others we know who will go unmentioned in this review. I love Valentine’s Day because it is focused on what any proper Southern gal can relate to... flowers, candy and being fawned over. Anonymous even gave me a rose. Sigh.
A and I were seated by the enormous Orangina poster at one of the new tables that have inlays of geometric patterns in the wooden top. Nice. I love this particular spot because I can take in the whole room and to my sheer delight we were surrounded by friends and even family! It reminded me of a truly gracious, lovely Southern Belle from Mobile named Miss Laura Guillard who told me the story of making her debut there during Mardis Gras in the 1920’s. Back then the debutantes were presented in the old banana warehouses where they walked out on platforms built for the special occasion which also happened to be open to the public. No invitation required. She remembered as she began her long walk down the runway coming out into a hushed crowd. It was only as she reached halfway that she came into applause where she knew she was “among friends.” And that’s how I felt... I was among friends.
A arrived announcing he was starved and wanted a starter. I had arrived dead set on the Nicoise Salad (I had been dreaming about it ever since I found out we were eating there) so he completely ignored my suggestion of the delicious homemade flatbread with smoked salmon and dill mascarpone (too much fish he said), and chose the roasted sweet peppers with goat cheese, pine nuts, capers and sultanas... which in layman’s language is a golden raison. Can I get an Alleluia! Amen! It was to die for. The peppers were sweet, the goat cheese was warm and soft enhanced by the crunch of the pine nuts and succulent sultanas. It even looked pretty on the plate. Absolutely divine. A was kind enough to let me split it with him. Such a gentleman.
Lunch arrived and Anonymous had settled on a salad that consisted of a broken fried egg on polenta with arugula, pancetta and mushroom vinaigrette. This is truly an example of why our very own Frank Stitt is indeed a “master.” In his signature fashion he took your basic southern breakfast of eggs, bacon and grits and combined his Alabama roots and expertise in French and Italian cooking to create a true masterpiece! It was out of this world delicious and I know my dear A adored his because he did not leave one thing on his plate. I have to admit I appreciate his love of exquisite food and his willingness to share. Makes a Bunny swoon.
Now for my dream come true... the Nicoise Salad - Bottega Style. It was perfection. This French Salad of tuna, green beans, hard boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, capers and potatoes is topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. The Ahi tuna was grilled medium rare, pink in the center and still slightly cool to the touch. I was living the dream. I ordered straight balsamic vinegar on the side because I love it so much and I think it makes everything taste good. It was truly a complete delight and I was also a member of the clean plate club. No pointing fingers at A.
Unfortunately we did not have dessert, which was a crying shame. A Bunny has to watch her girlish figure. We did have a coffee and enjoyed the magnificent ambience and energy of the cafe. We were even graced with a visit from the beautiful, lovely, generous, Pardis Stitt herself who brings light and life into any room. That was a treat.
Next visit I am diving into the chicken scaloppine with crisp breadcrumbs, polenta and capers. Or maybe the flat iron steak with olive oil crushed potatoes, grilled red onions, arugula and horseradish because my doctor said I need more iron.
Whatever, I know it will be a culinary treat, extraordinary in every way. After all, how often do we get to consume the creation of a master?
Bon appetite! Bunny W Bottega Restaurant and Café 2240 Highland Avenue South Birmingham , Alabama 35205 tel • 205.939.1000